2013-14 Year in Review
May 30, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women's golf team saw improvement all across the board in the 2013-14 season and recorded several key achievements along the way. Head Coach Renee Slone welcomed new assistant coach Jenny Coluccio in what they dubbed as the start of a new era for Illinois golf.
The Orange and Blue produced a strong start in the fall, finishing in the top-five in all five tournaments and climbing as high as No. 22 in the national rankings. Postillion got things rolling at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic, setting a new career low tournament score of 216 (E). After missing out on the Minnesota Invitational crown by one stroke, the Illini responded with a Diane Thomason Invitational victory, including Stephanie Miller's individual win. Miller was the first Illini freshman since Becky Biehl in 1992 to win a tournament outright and earned Golfweek's College Player of the Week and Big Ten's Golfer of the Week for her achievement.
Illinois posted yet another runner-up finish, this time at the Hoosier Invitational, as Ember Schuldt notched her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. The Illini then ended its fall with a fifth place showing at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, and closed out 2013 at No. 38 in the country.
The squad started the spring season with its sixth consecutive Illinois Challenge victory over Illinois State, defeating the Redbirds 9.5-2.5. The Illini then tied the program's second lowest 54-hole tournament total, carding an 875 (+11) at the Westbrook Spring Invitational, partially thanks to a strong final round score of 290 (+2). Erin Ahern shot a personal best 224 (+8), which was an improvement of 11 strokes from her previous low.
The Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate was highlighted by Sam Postillion who achieved a career best second place finish with a 221 (+5). At the Briars Creek Invitational, the squad proved they could learn from past mistakes and rally when they fired off a final round score of 293 (+5), an improvement of 17 strokes from the round before.
The Web.com Intercollegiate in Ponte Vedra, Fla. started with Schuldt recording a career low round of 67(-5), which tied the third lowest round in school history. Schuldt finished the tournament with a 218 (+2), just one stroke off her all-time best. The Illini then entered Big Ten territory where they finished in sixth at the Lady Buckeye Invitational. Schuldt kept her momentum rolling with a fifth place showing (226, +10) and her best tournament to date at Lady Buckeye in her four-year career.
Next it was Big Ten Championships time, held at the Pete Dye Course, where Illinois tied its highest finish over the past 19 seasons with a fifth place showing. The Illini utilized its second round score of 296, its lowest ever at Big Ten's, to leapfrog five spots in the standings. Individually, Schuldt finished in sixth with a 225 (+9), marking her highest finish at the conference tournament, as the senior received All-Tournament honors.
Shortly after, Schuldt was named second-team All-Big Ten, becoming just the eighth Illinois golfer to do so. The same week, Schuldt, along with Miller, qualified for the NCAA Central Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Thus, Schuldt became the first Illini golfer to earn three trips to Regionals as Miller became the first freshman qualifier in school history.
Together, Schuldt and Miller were the driving force of the squad. The Sterling, Illinois, native produced seven top-15 finishes in 2013-14, followed closely behind by Miller's six. Miller not only tied the ninth lowest round in school history with two separate rounds of -3 (69), but also tied the sixth lowest 54-hole tournament total (-3, 213) on two different occasions as well. Finally, both Schuldt and Miller combined for 12 subpar rounds.
The duo along with Sam Postillion all cemented their names on the all-time single season stroke average list. Schuldt checked in at No. 2 with a 74.78, only behind Coach Slone's 74.33. Miller displayed one of the best freshman debuts in Illinois history, ending the year with a 75 stroke average which ranks third. Meanwhile, Postillion is tied for eighth after recording a 76 average. More impressively, Schuldt leaves Illinois second on the career stroke average list with a 76.36, once again behind Slone's 75.53.
Freshman Emily Joers was another important piece of the Illini puzzle, competing in the lineup for all 11 tournaments. Joers captured her first career hole-in-one at the Diane Thomason Invitational, while twice setting her career low tournament score of 227 (+11). Joers finished with a 77.09 stroke average and low round of even par.
Academically, the Illini were on par once again in the classroom. Ahern, Postillion and Schuldt were all named Academic All-Big Ten. In addition, the group earned the NCAA Public Recognition award for the ninth straight year along with earning the Outstanding Team Scholastic Award for having the highest GPA amongst female teams.
The 2013-14 squad will also go down as one of the most successful thus far as its 301.36 stroke average ranked first all-time, besting the 2011-12 squad's 303.86 average. In summary, the Illini posted three of the top-10 rounds and four of the top-10 54-hole totals in the record book.
The future certainly looks bright as Coach Slone welcomes in four freshmen (Dana Gattone, Grace Park, Jan Prapassarangkul, Pailin Ruttanasupagrid) to bolster the roster for the upcoming season.